With a rapidly growing population of the diseased and obese, an increasing percentage of Americans is moving away from the cheap convenience of food-like substances to eating whole, real foods for nourishment. More attention is being drawn to traditional, ancestral diets that are rich and varied in nutrition, promising a myriad of health benefits, including treating disease to fighting the aging process. Nourishing Broth is the latest definitive resource and guide to traditional eating, from leaders of the nutrition education nonprofit Weston A. Price Foundation—Sally Fallon Morell, author of the bestselling cookbook Nourishing Traditions, and “The Naughty Nutritionist” Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CNC.
Considered a food bible in the real food community, Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, published in 2003, successfully made the case that the human body needs animal fats for optimum health and proper growth, drawing on the wisdom of traditional diets. The book first introduced the concept of the health benefits of bone broth.
Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World
further explores the subject of broth, providing the science to support the health claims, as well as offering a comprehensive recipe section.
“We came up with the idea of broth partly because I really think it is the foundation for a healthy, real foods diet,” said Daniel in a recent interview with Mind-Body Shift. Bone broth is rich in collagen, cartilage, and healing amino acids, all of which nourish the body and can help it recover from illness or injury.
Benefits of Bone Broth
As part of a rich and varied diet, broth helps overall protein digestion and assimilation needed for tissue growth and repair, immune function, hormone formation and metabolic processes. It helps build collagen and cartilage needed for healthy skin, joints and bones. Glucosamine in bone broth creates and repairs cartilage, decreases inflammation, alleviates joint pain and increases range of motion. Broth is also easier to digest than other forms of meat, like chops and steaks, and can play a pivotal role in healing the gut, a common health concern in the modern world.
Bone broth that is rich in glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), particularly glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, help the gastrointestinal tract form and repair the defensive barrier in the mucosa to nourish healthy bacteria. GAGs block unhealthy bacteria and play a vital role in regulating the immune response. Defects of GAG layer are thought to contribute to rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s and other autoimmune disorders, as well as autism.
“Back when Hippocrates was teaching us about health, which was a long time ago, he said disease began in the gut. So all of us who work with people to promote optimum health begin with gut healing,” said Daniel. “So many people today have leaky gut and there are a lot of gut injuries there that need healing up.”
Morell says that one of the ways bone broth aids healing is by nourishing the collagen that lines the gut, “right under enterocytes [the absorptive cells of the lining of the small intestine mucosa], which help in permeability.”
She adds that collagen is all over our bodies—supporting our skin and internal organs, as well as strengthening the ligaments that connect bones to one another and the tendons that connect bone to muscle. Collagen production slows with age and ill health, making the skin, tendon, ligaments and joints drier, thinner and weaker, thus more prone to injury. When collagen is low in the body, we are more likely to have injuries and it is harder for us to heal.
As the modern, industrial world has supplanted real broth with artificial substitutes that replace taste without nutrition, health has suffered as a result. “We’re seeing more and more problems with our joints and tendons,” said Morell.
“If we’re making broth with bone, we’re using collagen and cartilage, and this becomes extremely important for our health because the collagen and the cartilage is what builds beautiful, strong joints and skin and healthy bones,” said Daniel. “In fact, the collagen is more important for our bones than calcium. The collagen is what provides the scaffold or the structure. Calcium is the concrete.”
According to Nourishing Broth, collagen also plays a vital role in the prevention and treatment of autoimmune disorders. Inflammation is seen as the first stage in the healing process where the body “sends nutrients to the site of injury, leading to the formation of granular tissue and the formation of collagen. New collagen binds to damaged tissue so that healing and strengthening can take place.”
Daniel told me, “Inflammation really isn’t the enemy. It’s a sign our body is dealing with a problem, and it behooves us to really look at the cause and not just push inflammation deeper, covering up the symptoms. Broth really addresses the underlying symptoms.”
The authors argue for giving the body what it needs to produce optimum levels of high-quality collagen rather than take anti-inflammatory medication. Collagen is made up of amino acids, one-third of which are glycine. “Bone broth is rich is in glycine, which we don’t get very much of in meat,” said Morell.
Four Main Amino Acids in Bone Broth
According to Nourishing Broth, bone broth is rich in four main amino acids:
Proline, key for healthy collagen and cartilage (vitamin C and iron are important cofactors)
Glycine, which plays vital role in:
- Ensuring healthy blood
- Supplying energy to cells
- Digesting fat
- Providing adequate nourishment
- Gastric acid secretion
- Wound healing
- Reducing inflammation
- Glucose manufacturing
Glycine is also a precursor to glutathione, a powerful cancer-curbing, age-slowing antioxidant.
- Critical for cell proliferation, especially with regard to gut healing (especially helpful for those with Celiac, colitis, Crohn’s, IBS and ulcers)
–Stimulates immune cells, proliferation of lymphocytes, production of cytokines, kills bacteria
–Enhances recovery from injuries, wounds, burns, stress, major illness, post-surgery trauma
- Along with glycine, supports liver health and detoxification
- Boosts metabolisms and cuts cravings for sugar and carbs
- Helps prevent muscle atrophy, protein sparing
–Stimulates muscle building and repair
- Good “brain food”
–Helps stabilize moods
–Can improve neurological diseases like epilepsy and Parkinson’s
–Calms body and improves sleep
According to Morell, bone broth keeps dopamine at steady levels. “So broth can calm you down or rev you up, depending on what you need,” she said.
- Plays role in liver function and production of glucose
- Athletes require more of it for endurance and building muscle mass.
–Elderly may benefit from it for physical functioning
While these amino acids can theoretically be produced in healthy bodies, “most people aren’t healthy enough to make theses amino acids,” Daniel said. “We’re working out, under a lot of stress, pregnant or suffering from illness. The body is under consistent physical and mental stress.”
Bone broth is thus seen as a great tool along the journey to good health.
Bone Broth Supports Nose-to-Tail Eating
“Bone broth is a very important component in what is becoming known as nose-to-tail eating—the whole idea of Mother Nature’s wisdom eating all parts of the animal,” Daniel said. “[In broth], we’re using all parts of the animal, including the carcass.”
Daniel explains how many people eating Paleo, or following other ancestral diets, are mistakenly emphasizing muscle meats, like steaks and chops, above other parts of the animal. Eating too much muscle meat, high in the essential amino acid methionine, can contribute to excessive methylation. This biochemical complication in cells throughout the body can potentially lead to premature aging and other health problems. Eating parts of the animal rich in proline and glycine, including the skin, cartilage and bones, balances out the amino acids and nutrient-rich parts of the animal, like the liver and organ meats, which provide the vitamins and minerals needed for collagen and cartilage production.
While high in proline, glycine, glutamine and alanine, bone broth is low in essential amino acids of cysteine, tyrosine and histodine and is missing tryptophan. Adding meat, poultry, dairy, veggies, fish and grains to soups and stews can fill the gaps.
“When you get the broth, you’re not only getting collagen and cartilage, but the way most of us eat it is in soup, so it will contain meat, vegetables, and have a whole spectrum of nutrition. So that is satisfying and stops craving for other things,” said Daniel. “One of the reasons a lot of people overeat is because their bodies are still craving something that’s missing. It’s really about our bodies craving full-body nourishment. There are parts of all of the body that we need to be really, really healthy, to get a really balanced diet.”
Bone Broth As the Original Fast Food
“Broth is the original fast food,” said Daniel. “Put the ingredients in slow cooker in the morning, go to work, come home and your house is filled with the wonderful smells—dinner’s just ready to go. Or do it overnight. Simmer for 8 or 24 hours depending on type you’re making. It’s very easy and very fast, but it does take new habits.”
Daniel shares her tips for food preparation for the week. She roasts a chicken with thyme, sage, mustard and butter on Sunday. On Monday, the family will eat the drumsticks. For Tuesday’s dinner, the breast meat will be cut off and used in a curry dish; Daniel adds coconut milk, turmeric and other Indian spices to the chicken gravy to make a sauce. For the next meal, she puts the chicken carcass in a stockpot or slow cooker with celery, onion and garlic to make the broth, while adding some chicken feet for extra gelatin. Later that day or the next morning, she has a broth, which she can use as the base for a soup, with mixed vegetables, rice and other ingredients, for the next few days.
“Habits are fairly easy to learn, and you don’t have to learn all the tricks at once. There are all sorts of ways to take our baby steps. In my household, I would have to drive too far to get a nice assortment of bones. So I bought an inexpensive chest freezer, and I get bulk quantity shipped from miles away, which is more affordable and convenient, and I just stick it in the freezer,” she said. “Chicken feet are not in a lot of our health food stores. You may get it from ethnic market or order in from farmer shipping a hundred miles away. I freeze them and take them out every time we’re making broth.”
Ingredients like chicken feet can seem a bit intimidating, especially for kids. But the children of both Daniel and Morell grew up with broths and soups, and Morell said, “Kids respond very well. You can eat meat with gravies, things with sauces on them. Beef broth on its own is a bit of an acquired test, so I wouldn’t start there.”
Daniel added, “The finished product—if you do some of the classic techniques, such as skimming and refrigerating to take the fat off the top—will give you clear beautiful broth that’s very tasty and very nutritious.“
Morell addresses the concerns that cooking with more meat will be more expensive. “I like to point out that two people can get four meals out of one chicken. It’s a very economical way to eat,” she said. “Broth is protein sparing–you don’t need a lot of meat with a lot of broth. You can buy inexpensive meaty bones and put it in a soup. That protein will be just as good.”
Daniel also suggested one can also use quality gelatin and collagen supplements to complement bone broths. “I recommend the ones that come from the healthiest animals possible,” she said. Since the days of factory farming, she recommends the Viral Proteins and Great Lakes brands.
While the idea of going to local farmers to purchase food and preparing all your own food can sound like a lot work, she stressed that the health benefits will more than pay off in the end. “We have to keep in mind, most of the people we know today are really sick. People are getting sicker and sicker. The food supply is a good reason for that,” she said. “If we’re not going to pay attention in terms of our time, money and focus to really give ourselves the finest nutrition, we’re going to really pay in lost time, lost money and health challenges and that’s really a miserable way to live. People in the past understood the priority of nourishing ourselves as well as possible.”
One of the most important goals of the Weston A. Price Foundation is to “bring in healthy children for next generation; we need physical and emotionally strong people with a lot of energy to change the world in the way it needs to be changed,” said Daniel, current vice president.
The nonprofit is based on Dr. Price’s studies of ancient food traditions that associated the animal forms of vitamins A, D, and K with prevention of tooth decay, lung disease and promote reproductive health in ancient cultures. “The modern diet has largely gotten rid of these [sources],” said Morell.”We definitely need to get them back into our diets.”
Morrell said the best way to get them into the diet today is through animal fats, organ meats, butter and egg yolks from pasture-raised animals, who are raised in sunlight and get vitamin D directly from the sun and from consuming green grass. When able, Daniel encourages you to get to know and support your local farmers who are nourishing us.
“I think traditional diets are essential to go forward in modern life. Without principles of traditional diets, we lose people to disease and infertility,” said Morell. “I love this book because it shares science, which validates the tradition.”
Nourishing Broth shares the science on how the traditional use of broths has helped to treat autoimmune disease, cancer and infectious disease, heal wounds and slow aging, as well as boost athletic performance. Cartilage in bone broth, for example, has been show to have anti-carcinogenic properties, as well as be able to kill unwanted bacteria and viruses. Pliomorphic bacteria, or stealth bacteria that we take back and forth between viral and bacterial forms, have been identified in diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, which make them so so difficult to treat, according to Daniel. In addition to sharing the study findings like these, the book provides more than 150 pages on how to prepare different types of broths, soups, stews and sauces–for seasoned cooks to neophyte broth-makers looking for success.
Even more recipes are available at NourishingBroth.com, where broth-makers can find an online community to offer tips, ask questions and share how broth has helped their own health.